Thursday, 1 September 2016

The Beginning Woods - Book Review

The Beginning Woods - Book Review
Malcolm McNeill
Received Via Netgalley


A mystery no one can solve.

The Vanishings started without warning. People disappearing into think air - just piles of clothes left behind. Each day, thousands gone without a trace.

A baby no one wanted.

Max was abandoned in a bookshop and grows up haunted by memories of his parents. Only he can solve the mystery of the vanishings.

A secret that could save the future.

To find the answers,  Max must leave this world and enter the Beginning Woods. A realm of magic and terror, life and death.

But can he bare the truth? Or will it destroy him?


This was a really unusual read. It reminded me a lot of Cornelia Funke’s Inkheart, along with a bit of Alice in wonderland and some of Neil Gaimen’s Stardust thrown in. Although what hit me first and foremost - this is not a children’s book. I would say older YA at best, mostly because the plot is a little confusing and the choice of wording was often complex. 

“Like a Judge’s closing remarks on a balanced equation” - was just one of the many similes that made me raise my eyebrow. I also remember having to look up the words Symposism and inaugural along with several others just in the first chapter alone. Although this story certainly helped expand my vocab!  Yet you can see how a younger reader would struggle. 

Ultimately the story follows Max, a twelve year old boy who is on quest to find his forever parents. Abandoned in a bookstore as a baby, he has always felt that he hasn't belonged in this world. But when he finds a way through to fairyland… he might just have strayed onto the path that will lead him to his answers . . .

Then there are the vanishings. A strange phenomenon where people simply disappear into thin air, never to be heard from again. They began on the day Max was found, and in fear of them, colours and books, stories and dreams, all have been band from the world. But a world without dreams is a dull place indeed. And Max will find anyway he can to rebel against it.

There was a lot of plot in this book. I’m still not totally clear how it all fitted together, but the imagination behind it was immense. This book featured some impressive world building, stories within stories and a really diverse range of characters who all seemed to be at odds with each other. 

Ultimately it was these characters that made this story for me. They each had so many dimensions and they all had their own stories to tell. They certainly kept the story moving forward, although sometimes I had to pause and read something else for a while - just so I could fully digest what was happening.

I must admit - I didn't really connect with this book until about the halfway point. Yet as I despise not finishings books, I ploughed on - however if it wasn't for that iron will, I probably would have put it down rather quickly. Having said that, once I started to understand the story and get into its strange flow, I did begin to enjoy it. 

The prose has a very lyrical, storytelling sort of narrative. Although I’m pretty sure this book broke many writing rules, however its definitely quirky enough to pull it off. 

Truthfully there were so many scenes and moments where I really loved this story. I think its also the sort of book that no matter how many times you re-read it, you will always find something new.

Having said that I think many people will find this story heavy going. And confusing. But its definitely worth checking out if you want a more unusual read. Also if you enjoy interesting characters and some mind-boggling world building, then you should probably give this one ago.

All in all, 3 stars!


  1. Interesting story, I can see from your descriptions that it might be hard going for some readers, but sounds like it pays off if you stick with it! And the quirky worldbuilding does sound kinda fun! I had not heard of this one but I'm intrigued now, may have to get this one. :)

    1. It's definitely worth a try :) The beginning is just really weird, however once you connect to the story most of the plot clicks into place :)

  2. Definitely seems like an interesting read. Sorry there was a bit too much plot to completely follow, but I appreciate hearing what you did enjoy too!


    1. Hey - thanks for stopping by. And yes... interesting is a good word for this book. It certainly gives your brain a lot to think about :)

  3. I've never heard of this one, but it sounds like a good one if you can get through it. I don't mind something a little difficult if it's a unique read. I'll have to add this one to my to read list. I'm glad you pushed through and ended up enjoying it! Wonderful review!

    1. To be honest I started reading this in the gym. It was the only thing I had to distract me from my burning leg muscles lol - which is partly why I pushed through it so hard. Although this book was also quite the workout for my brain too! A very unique story!

  4. I really like the sound of the story in this one! Being born in a bookstore seems so magical.

    I recently read a book where I had to keep looking up words, too! And it was about a 15 year old guy, and I just kept thinking: how does he know these words when he's so much younger than me? XD Although it did increase my vocabulary, too, so I guess that was a bonus from my confusion, haha.

    I'm glad you ended up liking this one, even though you had a rough start with it! I felt the same way about a book I read last year, and it turned out to be one of my favourites of 2015 :D So sometimes pushing through those DNF feels is a good thing.

    Lovely review!

    1. Thanks or stop by :) Yeah - this book was definitely weird but I'm glad I kept on with it ... It certainly gave me lots to think about.